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Alydar, A Great Champion Thoroughbred Without The Name Recognition You Would Expect

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By Author: Lee Lane-Edgar
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A quick look online and you’ll find that there have been many horses that have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown, but fell short in the Belmont.  Alydar is not one of those horses.  In fact, this Hall of Fame racehorse didn’t even win one Triple Crown race, yet there are plenty of old-timers out there who believe that Alydar was a better horse than most of the eleven Triple Crown Champions.  He was denied the Triple Crown, or at least one Triple Crown victory in 1978, for one reason and one reason only:  Affirmed, the 1978, and last, Triple Crown winner.

Those who question the election of this great chestnut into the Hall of Fame in 1989 are simply not in touch with reality.  One thing that fans need to remember is that Affirmed and Alydar didn’t just meet in the three Triple Crown races, but had met an astonishing six times when they were juveniles!!!  Take a second and digest that information; I’ll repeat it again in case you are in shock.  The two horses went head-to-head six times when they were two-year-olds.  For a contemporary racing fan, that information must be hard to comprehend, because ...
... there just aren’t any major stakes horses that even run in six races total as juveniles anymore, let alone six against the same horse.  But face Affirmed wasn’t all he did at two in 1977.  He also won the Champagne Stakes easily as well as the Tremont Stakes in his spare time.

John Veitch was his trainer, Jorge Velasquez his jockey Alydar reunited with his rival Affirmed in the 1978 Kentucky Derby.  Velasquez took the brunt of the blame for his second place finish, barely more than one length behind Affirmed, because Alydar was charging hard down the stretch, but just ran out of room.  Many felt Velasquez should have moved Alydar up earlier.  The Preakness was a different story, with the two Hall of Famers hooking up in a fantastic stretch drive.  Alydar drew closer this time, but still lost by a neck.

When it was time three weeks later for the 1978 Belmont Stakes, Veitch and Velasquez had decided that the way to beat Affirmed was to shadow him, to do whatever his rival did.  With Affirmed leading around the first turn, Velasquez moved Alydar up right alongside, and for the rest of the race the two horses were never more than a quarter-length apart.  Fans were treated to one of the greatest races in the history of racing, let alone the Triple Crown.  When the two horses came out of the final turn and into the stretch at Belmont, Alydar finally pulled ahead of Affirmed for the first time in all three races.  If the race would’ve been 1 ⅜ miles, he would have won.  But Affirmed came back, and for the final furlong they were literally stride-for-stride.  With 70 yards to the wire, they were still even, but Affirmed pulled ahead by ever-so-small a margin, and won by a head.  Yes, Alydar failed to win any of the three Triple Crown races, but do you think he brought out the very best in Affirmed, spurring him to immortality in the process?  I sure do.

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